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When It Sizzles’

Stuffed Mussels- Moules Farcis

Monday, January 17th, 2011

In the south of France, a “farcis” of this or that appears in menus as often as  “fried” might south of the Mason Dixon line.  Stuffed is the literal meaning, but the edible translation is simple- take anything you wish to stuff and add bread crumbs, a touch of buttery olive oil, some herbs and a quick turn under the broiler and watch as you end with something greater than the sum of its parts.  Mussels, served “a la Farcis” in the tiny villages that dot the Mediterranean such as Cassis, are a beloved local favorite and are often washed down with a crisp glass of rose or in winter, a mineral rich white.
What You Need
3 mussels (pp if used as a first course, tripled if a main)
Basil Pesto
Break Crumbs or Toasted Baguette Croutons, finely crushed
Olive Oil
2 cups of white wine
1 cup of Parmesan or Gruyere * Optional
Take Mussels and steam open by tossing them in heated pan with white wine.
Pry off the top shell of the mussel, disgarding them and the mussels un-opened in their steam bath.

Mix the Pesto, cheese and the bread crumbs with the salt and top each mussel with enough of the bread mixture to cover. Drizzle with Olive oil and broil.

Serve With

Linguine as a main course, or arugula salad with shaved Comte or Parmesan as a first.

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Sole Meuniere

Friday, September 18th, 2009


The opening scene of the feature film Julie and Julia begins in a quaint restaurant in rural France, with the heavenly sound of butter crackling and kicking as its makes its way from the kitchen to the table of Julia and Paul Child.  The reason: Sole Meuniere, a bite of which causes her to pause and then erupt with ecstacy- The dish, a french classic, begins with Sole, a thin white fish that when cooked properly manages to be both crispy on the edges and yet tender and delicate in the middle, and elevated into air as thin as itself by a sauce divine enough to eat alone. La Meuniere is a sauce that consists of browned butter, parsley and a touch of lemon, as well as referring to the application of lightly dredging a filet in flour. Sole Meuniere combines the two and it is such a simple dish albeit one that will wow and delight to great eye rolling effect. 

4 filets of Lemon Sole, Dover or Grey Sole

1 c of salted flour

1/2 c of unsalted butter 

juice of a single lemon

For the fish

Take the sole and pat dry completely

Salt well and dredge in flour

Using a tong remove from flour and gently tap against a bowl to remove excess flour, and set aside

For the butter

Take the butter and place it in a deep sauce pan on med high heat. Being careful not to burn, watch as the butter rids itself of its milk solids and foams. Once it begins to clarify and resembles an oil, take an 1-2 tbsp out and reserve. Once the foam on the remainder  is a light brown, remove from heat instantly, and carefully add in juice of lemon- It will sputter so keep your distance.

On medium hight heat in a good non stick skillet, heat the reserved (clarified) butter and 1-2 tbsp of grapeseed or canola oil, then add the sole and cook for 2 minutes per side.

Remove from heat to a plate or serving dish and spoon the brown butter over the top- 

Serve at once, taking a good moment beforehand to plunge a finger into the sauce or steal an edge of the crispy fish… Tres Magnifique!

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Gypsy Kitchen: An evening in Capri

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

013Last Saturday eve, I hosted my first Austin cooking demonstrations and we delved into the basics of Italian cuisine. With inspiration coming from summers in Capri, I set to the task of Grilling Octopus, throwing together a Fresh Tomato Bruschetta and cooking up a divine version of Spaghetti alle Vongole.  The evening was set off on an even sweeter note with my dearest friend and fellow cooking companion, Sandi Reinlie, when she threw together a pine nut, vanilla bean mascarpone and balsamic glazed strawberry tart. All within 20 minutes. Needless to say, people want to feel that whatever we are demonstrating they themselves can do at home and this was a hit. There are a few differences between fast and easy even though they are used so interchangeably by everyone these days. A dish, for example, can be easy to make but take time, or be fast to put together but require great skill. What I have noticed is that most of us these days want recipes that are a combination of the two. Realizing this put me on a crash course of reworking my favorite recipes so that I can determine ways to cut time and simplify techniques without sacrificing a particular dish or menu. Its going to be a challenge, albeit one I will enjoy, but the following recipes are instant examples of such. Thanks again to my premier group of ” gypsies” . 

Grilled Baby Octopus w Lemon and Basil Aioli

1 pound of fresh baby octopus, heads removed

6 tbsp of evoo 

2 tsp of salt and a pinch of pepper

1 tsp of chopped garlic

2 egg yolks

5 basil leaves, rolled together and chopped


Begin by preheating your grill on high for 5 minutes, top down. Take your thawed octopus, 3 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tsp of salt, pepper and 1/2 the garlic and toss together in a large metal bowl or ziploc. Set aside.  Can be left in marinade overnight or for a few hours, although it is also unnecessary if time doesn’t allow. 

Once your grill is smoking hot, take tongs and gently lift the octopus out one by one and lay them flattened on the grill. ( If you dump them out all together, the oil will catch fire and they will not cook evenly ) 

Leave to grill for 4 minutes on high, top open,  then turn and repeat on the other side. After 8 mintues, remove from heat to a platter.

For the Aioli, take your egg yolks, remaining salt and garlic and whisk gently in a large metal bowl. Slowly stir in remaining olive oil, whisking well to incorporate. The mixture should have the consistency of mayonnaise. Throw in the basil, stir and serve immediately . If you don’t have eggs or want to make a different version, 1 c of store bought mayo with the juice of half a lemon and the basil makes an easy and elegant sub. 

* when consuming raw eggs, the remaining mixture should be kept cold. Throw out any aioli that was served, but not eaten. 


Spaghetti alle Vongole

2 pounds of clams, mixed or all one type – I find the smaller ones easier to manage. 

1-2 pounds of spaghetti, linguine or angel hair

2 c of white wine ( that you would actually drink )

2 tsp of minced garlic

Juice of half a lemon

3 tbsp of EVOO

salt and pepper to taste

2-3 tbsp of cold butter, diced


Start by bringing a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. ( should taste like the sea ) Throw in your pasta with a touch of olive oil. 

In a large sided pan, add olive oil and garlic and cook until slightly opaque. 

Toss in your rinsed clams and saute for a minute or less. 

Throw in the white wine, carefully lifting the pot off the fire if you are worried it might be too hot. ( if the garlic begins to burn, add more olive oil or wine to drop the temperature in the pan )

Once the mussels begin to open, drain your cooked -al dente -pasta, which should be soft but snap a touch when pulling apart, reserving a few tbsp of pasta water. Remove your clams and begin to reduce your sauce by a third by adding in the reserved pasta water and lemon juice. Once the sauce thickens a bit, remove from heat and stir in cold butter. Toss in your pasta and clams and stir to coat. Remove to a large serving bowl and serve with herb croutons slightly crushed on the top~

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The Cooking Depot : Modern Mexican

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009


Last week, I made the enjoyable pilgrimage to Cuero, Texas where I have frequently taught cooking classes at the Cooking Depot over the past 4 years. I was searching for a creative but appropriate menu and came up with a Modern Mexican set. I took traditional mexican flavors and punctuated them with inventive plating and more approachable, healthy techniques. The next few recipes are from the lively stage from which I thoroughly enjoy cooking.






My ultimate guacamole has been, until now, a family secret~ I hope you enjoy this cool and creamy and oh so good for you appetizer, or enjoy it as I often do- for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

What you Need

2 large hass avocados

1 tsp of kosher salt

1/2 tsp of garlic salt ( or fresh if you prefer )

1 tsp of fresh cilantro

1 tbsp of mexican style creme ( sour cream ) 

Slice your avocados and stabbing the pit with the blade of your knife, carefully twist and discard. Gently slice the avocado in your hand, within the shell and then scoop out the flesh with a spoon or your knife if preferred. Once in a bowl, add your 2 salts and mash. I like a rough mash although its also great super creamy as well. Once finished, add to a serving bowl and top with the cilantro. For added pleasure, a spoonful of mexican crema goes a long way in pleasing the crowds!

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Classic Mexican Chopped Salad w Avocado Ranch Dressing

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

This divine salad celebrates everything I love, except mushrooms. I couldn’t find a way to get them in and stay true to the inspiration of classic Mexican flavors. Its an easy and substantial salad and can be made into a dinner version easily with the combination of grilled shrimp, chicken or steak.

For the Salad:

Iceberg wedge, one head

2-3 small diced tomatoes

1 large hass avocado, diced with 1/3 reserved for the dressing

1 c of sweet summer corn

5 pieces of bacon, or more ya’ll if you want! 


For the dressing

1 c mayo

3/4 c sour cream

1 small twig of thyme, marjoram and cilantro

1 c of cold buttermilk

1/3 c of diced avocado

1/2 tsp of garlic salt

pepper to taste


Take a large bowl and add all your salad dressing ingredients together, whisking rapidly to incorporate. Once the dressing has been whipped, adjust to taste. The add your diced tomatoes, avocado, corn, chopped lettuce and bacon and stir until evenly coated. ( you may wish to remove half the dressing before adding the salad so that you can add dressing quantity to preference, or even pour into a separate container to add later.

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